At ‘ivermectin pantry,’ prescriptions lack doctor info and beneficiaries sign waivers

Xave Gregorio - Philstar.com
At âivermectin pantry,â prescriptions lack doctor info and beneficiaries sign waivers
Rep. Mike Defensor (Anakalusugan party-list) and Deputy Speaker Rodante Marcoleta (Sagip party-list)lead the distribution of anti-parasite drug ivermectin at the Matandang Balara’s barangay hall in Quezon City on April 29, 2021.
The STAR / Boy Santos

MANILA, Philippines — Prescriptions for the antiparasitic drug ivermectin for the prevention and treatment of COVID-19 lacked doctors’ information and patrons were made to sign waivers at the so-called “pantry” that two lawmakers launched Thursday.

Deputy Speaker Rodante Marcoleta (Sagip party-list) and Rep. Michael Defensor (Anakalusugan party-list) pushed through with their distribution of ivermectin capsules to some 200 Quezon City residents, defying warnings from medical organizations on the thin evidence that backs the drug for the prevention and treatment of COVID-19.

The two lawmakers were assisted by medical professionals from the Concerned Doctors and Citizen of the Philippines — a group pushing for the use of the antiparasitic drug despite the scant evidence.

READ: DOH: Only hospitals with special permits can give ivermectin for COVID-19

But before people got hold of at least 10 capsules of ivermectin, they would first have to sign a waiver that holds the distributors of the drug free from any legal responsibility.

Defensor claimed that this is a “standard form” used for all drugs for COVID-19. “

"It basically states that they are informed, that they consent and submit a waiver to this effect," he told Philstar.com.

Asked if people who experience adverse reactions to ivermectin can expect any financial assistance, Defensor said, "I would assume that the treatment of ivermectin is the same as the other drugs."

Clinical trials for the use of ivermectin against COVID-19 have yet to start.

In general, Justice Secretary Menardo Guevarra said, a waiver does not extinguish criminal liability as criminal offenses are committed against the people of the Philippines.

READ: DOJ: Giving out ivermectin 'on its face' a violation, but arrests up to enforcers

‘No legitimate doctor does this’

After filling up the form and signing the waiver, doctors on-site handed beneficiaries the prescriptions for ivermectin. But the prescriptions, written on crudely prepared sheets of paper, did not contain their names, license numbers and professional tax receipt numbers.

Defensor made light of this, saying that what is important are the forms submitted to them. Besides, he said in Filipino, "It’s not like they obtained the drug from a pharmacy. It was just from the other table."

On social media, several medical professionals sounded the alarm on the lack of doctors’ information on the prescriptions for ivermectin.

“No legitimate doctor does this,” Dr. Gene Nisperos of the University of the Philippines – Manila said on Twitter. “But there are so many politicians who are campaigning who do.”

Ten medical societies, along with the DOH and the FDA, however, have examined six clinical trials on ivermectin and found that it did not significantly reduce deaths or improve other clinical outcomes among COVID-19 patients.

That said, dozens of clinical trials on the use of ivermectin for the treatment of COVID-19 are still ongoing worldwide, including one in the Philippines which was ordered by President Rodrigo Duterte.

Can't stop?

The Department of Health (DOH) and its attached agency, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), have been sending mixed signals on whether the drug can be distributed to the public.

On one hand, the DOH said only hospitals given by the FDA a compassionate special permit can give ivermectin as an off-label COVID-19 treatment, but on the other, the FDA said that ivermectin can be given as long as doctors prescribe it.

The Quezon City Health Department said the DOH and the FDA should come up with a clear stand on the safety and use of ivermectin as it can neither endorse its use or stop its distribution.

"We were not given a go signal by the FDA to use ivermectin as prophylaxis or cure against COVID-19 since it's still pending further studies. Hence, we cannot use it nor endorse it," said Quezon City Health Department officer-in-charge Esperanza Arias.

"We cannot also stop the distribution since use of it against COVID has not been declared illegal as well," she said. — with reports from Franco Luna and Kristine Joy Patag

Disclosure: Quezon City Mayor Joy Belmonte is a shareholder of Philstar Global Corp., which operates digital news outlet Philstar.com.




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